Newsletter #9     February 2016

Welcome to our ninth newsletter – designed to keep you informed about our activities, as well as other local chamber music events.


The concert on January 24 was fascinating: glorious Mozart, early Strauss and mature Janacek. Opinion was divided on whether the Beethoven piano sonata, arranged for wind, was a success or a disaster. For reviews of the concert by Andrew Polmear and Richard Amey see  and choose ‘News and Views’.

The next concert on 21 February is by the Elias Quartet (their second concert this season)

  • Haydn String Quartet in C Op. 54 No. 2
  • Britten String Quartet No. 1 in D Op. 25
  • Mendelssohn String Quartet Op. 13

It has becomes customary for the Newsletter to highlight and discuss a particularly challenging piece from the next coffee concert. For the concert on 21 February it’s not hard to guess the piece that needs some attention: Britten’s Quartet No 1 in D. It’s not an easy piece and in these circumstances it’s not a bad idea to find a way in by spinning a story which “explains” the music in some way.

Take the first movement. It starts incredibly softly, incredibly high, except for the cellist who plays some rather wonky argeggios pizzicato. This gives way to a tumultuous allegro, full of violence, the cello sounding a drumbeat against the screeching upper strings. Soft and loud sections are then repeated twice more before the movement ends. Britten wrote this piece in a toolshed in California, homesick for England and anxious about the war and about his decision to leave Europe. So think of the quiet bits as his nostalgia (and sure enough it’s full of motifs that return in Peter Grimes and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, both very English pieces) and the loud bits as his anxiety about the war.

The short second movement has a trotting rhythm punctuated by bursts of activity; think of a horse trotting through artillery fire.

The long third movement sways gently with a rhythm that’s puzzling until you realise it’s in 5/4. Different instruments make occasional bids for freedom but nothing really escapes the overall melancholy. The haunting beauty of the movement can be seen as Britten’s elegy for the old Europe which he believed was dying.

Finally, in the short 4th movement, the horse is back but skittish, not at all calmed by the bugle calls from various instruments as they try and fail to rally the troops.

If you like the idea of this way into a difficult piece and you don’t have a recording, there are several on . But once you’ve reached the point when the music means something to you, it’s important to jettison the ‘story’. It’s probably wrong and, anyway, great music speaks to us deeply at a primitive level. Trying to explain it as we listen just gets in the way.

Chris Darwin’s programme notes for the whole concert should shortly be available on


Strings Attached’s fifth Annual General Meeting will be held after the Elias  concert  in the Founders Room at Brighton Dome at 13.00. You are warmly invited to attend. A sandwich lunch will be provided for which there will be no formal charge although a donation of £5 per head is suggested.

If you intend to come to the AGM, and have not yet let us know, please email the Treasurer, Christine Moon, at by 12.00 tomorrow, Wednesday, 17 February. This is so that the caterer can be informed of the number attending and provide enough food to go around.

Please bring with you to the meeting the following papers:

  • Agenda for AGM 2016
  • Minutes of the 2015 AGM
  • Annual Report for 2015
  • Statement of Accounts for 2015

They can be downloaded at  .  Click on ‘Annual General Meeting 2016 Agenda’ to get access to all the papers. We will not be supplying copies on the day.

Nomination of committee members
Strings Attached has a committee currently comprising 5 members (a total of 8 places is available). The committee meets 5 times a year with email communication between meetings. If you would like to become involved, either as a committee member or by helping behind the scenes, please contact the Chair, Mary McKean, on 01273 554278 or at

As mentioned in the last newsletter, the skills of the current committee would be greatly enhanced by new members who have skills in publicity and public relations, fundraising or graphic design and/or a knowledge of or interest in social media. Please do not be put off if your skills do not relate to these areas – we’ll still be glad to hear from you.

Contribution to the AGM discussion in the event of being unable to attend
If you are unable to come to the AGM but have comments on the papers or the coffee concerts or ideas for future activity, please send them to

Coffee concerts take place at 11.00 am in the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange.
Tickets prices have been held at the 2014/15 level of £18.50 (concessions £16).
Tickets are available from the Brighton Dome Box Office (01273 709709) or .
Young people: tickets for those aged 8 – 25 are free as part of the Cavatina Scheme. They can only be booked in person at, or by telephone to, the box office. The young person need not be present at the time of booking but a name, date of birth and an email address will be required. Under 14s must be accompanied by a paying adult. The total number of seats per concerts under the scheme is limited, so booking ahead is a good idea.

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